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Tips for Helping Your Child with Autism Handle School Breaks

Transitioning Through School Breaks

It is the time of year for seasonal holidays and long breaks from school. The multiple days off from school can have a negative impact on students, especially those students with autism. To prevent regression during this time, here are a few tips to use at home over the holidays.

Maintain a Sleep Routine:

It can be difficult to stick to a bedtime schedule, but this is very important for your child. Setting an alarm daily as a reminder to start the nighttime routine will help ensure that your child is getting in bed at an appropriate and consistent time every evening. This will also prevent your child from having a difficult time adjusting to getting up early and going to bed on time when returning to school. Begin this strategy a few days before returning to school after the holidays.

Use Visual Schedules:

The use of a visual schedule, for the morning and bedtime routines, will not only help to ensure that your child remains on a consistent sleep and meal schedule, but will also promote a regular routine of engaging in academic activities and decreasing leisure screen time. Daily schedules help children maintain positive behavioral skills, such as sitting at a desk and completing academic tasks.

Maintenance Binder:

Some teachers will provide or will assist with developing a maintenance binder or a packet for the students to work on daily over the holiday break. The binder should include fun activities, as well goals and skills for maintenance. This will help to maintain academic skills and competencies to prevent regression in any of the goals learned so far this year. 

Designated Work Area:

Set a specific place where your child can focus and complete academic work without distraction. The work area should be clear from electronics, toys and other items that may distract your child.  The goal is to promote focus on the academic material. The work space  should be organized so that  academic materials can be safely stored and put away.

Use a Reward System:

Sticker charts and token boards are a great way to promote positive behavior while at home. Be specific about  the behavior you desire  – for example:  “follow daily schedule,” “be nice to siblings,” “help taking out the garbage”.  Provide small daily rewards, such as stickers, when your child engages in the behaviors you have targeted. It is important to remember that the reward should be something motivating to the child and not something they have free access to.

Encourage Children to Be Involved with Prep and Cleanup:

Small family gatherings provide great opportunities for your child to help with cleaning, cooking, and wrapping gifts.  When using a visual schedule, include time in the schedule for “helping mom or dad.” This is a fun way to share family time,  teach a new skill and reinforce positive behavior. 

Use Social Stories:

Social stories are an effective tool to use to explain the change in routines during the holidays.  Use social stories to explain who may be visiting for the holidays,  or plans for family travel.  Changes that we are all facing may best be explained through a social story.

Attached is a list of resources to use:

Social Stories websites and Apps

https://www.lcsc.org/cms/lib6/mn01001004/centricity/domain/21/socialstories.pdf

Social Stories for Kids With Autism – The Ultimate Guide

https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/social-stories-for-autistic-children/embed/#?secret=kGovg3GtYo

12 Computer Programs, Websites And Apps For Making Social Stories

https://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/02/11/12-computer-programs-websites-and-apps-for-making-social-stories/embed/#?secret=pTr8YdxcN3

https://play.google.com/store/search?q=social%20stories%20for%20autism%20free&c=apps&hl=en_US&gl=US

Visual schedule Apps

https://play.google.com/store/search?q=visual%20schedule%20for%20autism&c=apps&hl=en_US&gl=US

https://www.pinetreesociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/App-Smack-Down.pdf

Token Board Apps

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/my-token-board/id1033833898

https://play.google.com/store/search?q=token%20boards&c=apps&hl=en_US&gl=US

Megan Killeen MS, BCBA, LBA is a Clinical Supervisor at Family of Kidz.

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